The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City series kicked off with the Norfolk address on February 8. A sold out crowd of more than 1,000 filled the a ballroom at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott to hear Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim provide an update on the city’s key business development initiatives, municipal progress updates and opportunities.
Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim told attendees that the city has a balanced budget, a dropping crime rate, increased sales, a recovering real estate market and a growing population. He added, “The Port of Virginia reported 2012 was the second best year in its history with volume up nearly 10% from the year before.”
Fraim said, “With over $1 billion in public and private development nearly completed, underway or planned in 2013, our city is growing and attracting new businesses and new residents.” Projects mentioned were the Slover Memorial Library, MacArthur Memorial’s new Visitor Center, Virginia Maritime Association’s headquarters, courts complex, and Urban Outfitters. He followed up by discussing the revitalization of Waterside. “The Cordish Companies of Baltimore will invest $28 million in transforming the facility into Waterside Live, a venue featuring restaurants, a market area and performance space,” Fraim said. “Waterside Live is hoped to bring upwards of 1,000 new jobs and generate an estimated $93 million in direct revenue to the City over 30 years.” The mayor also mentioned construction taking place at Wards Corner, Sentara Health System is building a new Leigh Hospital, and Bon Secours will be constructing a Medical Plaza building at DePaul Medical Center.
“The Granby Street corridor has become a magnet for technology companies, like xTuple,” Fraim said. “Other digital firms on Granby Street include Grow Interactive, Ciniva, Web Agency, ArtSmith Media and Sway Creative Labs.”
Fraim discussed the need to diversify the city’s economy and reduce dependency on defense spending, which is 45% of the region’s economy. He said, “Congress’s failure to adopt a budget has already caused the Navy to order expenditure reductions. The potential calamity from sequestration threatens more, deeper and damaging reductions in defense spending and national security.” The mayor urged the audience to contact our congressional delegation and demand they oppose defense cuts.
The mayor explained that Norfolk has more jobs than adult residents and that the city leads the region in total average compensation per job. The unemployment rate has fallen from 8.1% a year ago to 7.2%.
In August 2012, the city’s light rail system, The Tide, celebrated its first anniversary. Fraim said, it has “exceeded every expectation.” He mentioned that the Tides success will help move us closer to a regional light rail system. Continuing on the topic of transportation, the mayor mentioned that on 12/12/12 intercity passenger rail returned to Norfolk. Almost 6,500 passengers rode the train in December – double what AMTRAK projected.
Discussing transportation projects, Mayor Fraim said, “The City of Norfolk supports the construction of the Patriot’s Crossing.” He added, “The State is expected to run out of construction funds before 2017. Of the many ways being proposed during this General Assembly session to raise revenue for transportation, they all fall short of the need demonstrated to build and maintain the transportation system our economy demands. We must urge our General Assembly members to do better.”
During the luncheon, the mayor praised numerous high school and university sports teams, as well as the Norfolk Admirals, who won the Caulder Cup. The crowd then got a treat, when Charles the Monarch made an appearance. Charles, an adorable labradoodle recently mistaken for a lion, has gained international media exposure for himself and Old Dominion University.
Join the Chamber for the remaining State of the City Series events:
Virginia Beach: Thursday, March 14, noon at the Virginia Beach Convention Center
Chesapeake: Thursday, February 28, noon at the Chesapeake Conference Center
Portsmouth: Wednesday, April 3, noon at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel & Waterfront Conference Center
Suffolk: Tuesday, May 7, noon at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront Hotel & Conference Center
For reservations, visit http://Events.HamptonRoadsChamber.com or call 757-622-2312.
Thank you to sponsors: TowneBank (Series Presenting Sponsor), Bon Secours Virginia Health System (Series Platinum Sponsor), Cox (Series Media Sponsor), Farm Fresh and Optima Health (Series Silver Sponsors).